Monday, September 27, 2021

Working for a living

Justin Phillips is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist whose beat, Black people around the Bay, usually takes him to such locales as Oakland or Marin City. However he ventured into deepest San Francisco recently to check out a rumor about the effort to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin:

It’s what brought me to San Francisco on Tuesday, chasing social media reports that Black men like me were being paid to gather signatures for the recall. In Republican-led recall elections, capitalism in this form isn’t something I associate with the advancement of Black and brown issues. Even when pro-recall voices tout Democratic support, the reality is that their tactics and rhetoric mimic those of far-right figures like Donald Trump.

Recent months have revealed just how easily California’s broken recall system can be manipulated by wealthy Republicans ... These recalls are part of a troubling national narrative. Republicans are attacking minority voting rights in Texas and Georgia. It may feel far from home, but the same type of white, affluent, conservative forces behind those efforts are also bankrolling attempts to oust people like Boudin and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

... Since they can exacerbate the plight of Black and Latino people, they’re also a tool of white supremacy ...

He rightly considers the Boudin recall push to be establishment sour grapes abetted by racial fearmongering. We're already into the second recall attempt against a D.A. who has been in office less than two years, most of that hampered by the pandemic, closed courts, and the usual recalcitrant, racist police force.

Through it all, Boudin has been doing the job he was elected to do:

Boudin has promoted decarceration efforts like limiting the “three strikes” law for repeat offenders. He champions restorative justice initiatives that focus on rehabilitative alternatives to incarceration. Black Bay Area leaders have also supported Boudin’s stances.

Phillips didn't find the rumored young Black male signature gatherers.  As it happened, I did see some of these guys the other day. Not working I should say, but taking a smoke break and comparing notes while sticking out as non-natives in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

This is what unsorted, unverified petitions look like.
As it happens, I know something about California's paid signature gathering -- I've worked in campaigns that used these vendors to get measures qualified for the ballot. It's a highly developed industry. If you are willing to pay enough, you can get most anything before the voters.

The most successful petition-hawkers are usually aggressive and smooth talking young white men -- the same sorts of guys who scratch out a living playing music or being mimes on the streets. They are paid by the signature, so they energetically engage. They seldom know or care what the petitions they are carrying would do. Most of those who sign are also white -- stands to reason since California voters remain by plurality white.

One of these out-of-place signature gatherers made a weak effort to attract my signature. "Sign to legalize magic mushrooms?"

Smart move that. When I declined, he offered "I got another one." It was the Boudin recall petition. As I expected, he couldn't even pronounce Boudin's name. 

Signature gathering is just a job. I wasn't going to argue, politely declining.

This team was not going to get much done. They'll probably get fired; there are always more folks needing a job ...

Justin Phillips is right. The multiple Boudin recalls are yet more evidence that the recalls aren't empowering voters. Money wants to get its way and uses what was meant as a voter empowerment mechanism to get there.

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